Did you know that on a global scale, we are building the equivalent of another Manhattan every month? And did you also know that we are spending more hours inside these imaginary Manhattans than ever? In fact, people in Northern Europe

Written by Line Ingerslev

Jun 28, 2021 / 5 min. read

Urbantech: The sustainable cities of the future

Did you know that on a global scale, we are building the equivalent of another Manhattan every month? And did you also know that we are spending more hours inside these imaginary Manhattans than ever? In fact, people in Northern Europe are now spending around 90% of their time indoors. It is no secret that urbanization is increasing rapidly around the world, calling for innovative and sustainable solutions if we are to keep up with modern development.

Enter: Urbantech, a non-equity, pilot-focused accelerator program whose main goal is to accelerate the development of sustainable cities. Urbantech focuses on digital solutions to make construction more effective, buildings and power systems more flexible, and public spaces more multifunctional. All of this contributes to another important aim: decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. For perspective, 70% of global CO2 emissions stem from cities.

Sparking new innovations across startups and corporates

Once a year, Urbantech opens applications worldwide to growth-stage startups, with the possibility to participate in a 12-week intensive accelerator program. The admitted 8-10 startups will team up with three Danish corporates to create pilot solutions within urban technology, providing the opportunity to create longer-term business relationships outside the program as well. Industriens Fond and Realdania are also part of it as part of their strategic philanthropic investments in this space.

Primarily, the program aims to create pilots between the startups and corporates. According to Michael Ambjørn, Managing Director, Urbantech at Rainmaking, the pilot process is an essential part of the accelerator program, because the two parties complement each other in various ways:

“Usually startups have really good ideas, but often they can't scale them fast enough to keep up with demand when they achieve product-market fit. And then we have the corporates who have the scale, but don’t innovate fast enough to keep up with the need for change. If you smash the two together, you can actually spark something that's quite remarkable, quite interesting - and achieve scale in a new way. What is needed to solve the urgent challenges of today in other words.”

In addition, the Urbantech value chain is often somewhat opaque, meaning startups often struggle to find and engage with relevant stakeholders and create useful partnerships. Ecosystem transparency is something that the acceleration program is trying to improve by facilitating the contact between the different stakeholders:

“The Urbantech Program is built around the idea that in order to have an impact on the world, startups need to integrate deeply into their ecosystems to be successful. We do that by working closely with some of the biggest built-environment partners in Europe. Startups in our accelerator program have access to top executives and some of the sharpest minds in this industry. We invite them to work collaboratively to make a lasting impact,” says Michael and continues:

“The truth is that you cannot solve the big challenges facing humanity by thinking in weeks or months. Your time horizon should be years and decades – and partnering with companies who have their eyes on the more distant future is a powerful way to do that. Creating connection, unleashing entrepreneurs – and getting exciting ideas into action.”

What does the future hold within Urbantech?

The past year has forced every organization, from startups to corporations regardless of their industry, to redesign and think outside of the box. Urbantech was no exception, having to redefine the whole accelerator program to fit with changing circumstances.

Taline Yerganyan, Urbantech Program Director at Rainmaking, says:

“To adapt to COVID-19, we had to work fast to build a hybrid program, integrating more digital solutions and virtual approaches. This was not an easy journey, but still something that laid the groundwork for new ways to structure accelerator programs.”

And the investment has paid off, Taline continues:

“We have seen partners and startups working together in new ways. And that is something – I think – will become even more prevalent in the future.”

Last but not the least, Michael Ambjørn underlines one of the most important trends in all industries, not just Urbantech: focusing on sustainable processes and solutions. He states that it is a trend already highly integrated in many businesses – but it may only be the tip of the iceberg:

“What we have been seeing is an increasing shift into focusing on impact and sustainability, which is a trend going across all sectors. I believe that environmentally friendly solutions will only become even more widespread – especially within Urbantech.”

Facts – More about Urbantech

The purpose of Urbantech is to link Danish strengths in architecture, design and urban development with international expertise, technological innovation and business development.

Urbantech was founded by COWI, VKR Holding / VELUX and EWII, which all invest both time, talent and resources into the program. Urbantech is also supported by the philanthropic organisations Realdania and the Danish Industry Foundation.

The program is powered by Rainmaking in collaboration with BLOXHUB, the Danish Design Centre, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and IBM. Rainmaking operates and facilitates the program.

Read more at urbantechprogram.io.

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